The Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI) program is a collaboration between ourselves, the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, and an amazing network of farmers. This program is an extension of the BC Seed Trials and continues to develop high-quality, regionally adapted vegetable seed through on-farm variety trials and breeding programs.

Three women taking notes on carrot seed plants in a hoop house.

Photo by Michael Marrapese.

Variety trials examine the best-performing crops of a particular variety under certain growing conditions. Choosing varieties adapted for specific growing conditions reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides to control weeds, pests, and diseases. Growers who perform variety trials optimize their farm production and management because they gain knowledge about what varieties grow the best on their land and require little intervention. Participants share this data and have access to variety performance information through SeedLinked, an online platform that collects and analyzes trial results. This information is used to assess the viability of existing varieties and informs the farming community about what crops can be improved upon to better suit BC’s unique growing conditions.

We’ll start a breeding program if a variety trial reveals a gap in available produce varieties, such as a tasty red carrot that stores well. Breeding programs help us develop varieties that are uniquely suited to each region or farm based on a set of breeding goals, priorities, and unique growing conditions.

Two Farm Folk are inspecting and collecting data on plants at UBC Farm.

The CANOVI program demonstrates that seeds do not have to be developed in a lab by seed companies because farmers have the knowledge to produce their own. Working collaboratively with researchers and farmers, we can take control of our seed supply.

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